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NEWS

Demonizing Dissidents event at Georgetown Law, Washington D.C.

editor - November 10, 2015 - INTERPOL, red notice

This week, Fair Trials hosted an event in Washington, D.C. in collaboration with Georgetown Law Human Rights Institute discussing the misuse of INTERPOL by repressive regimes around the world to persecute activists, journalists and political dissenters, to devastating effect. For extra details and pictures of the event and to see quotes from our panelists, you can view our tweet-by-tweet account here

Whole panelIn recent years, the use of INTERPOL's "wanted person" alerts has expanded vastly. Unfortunately, some have been used as an instrument for silencing dissent and exporting repression with devastating consequences.

The audience heard the stories of activists and journalists who were victims of politically motivated Red Notices, talking about what it was like to be the victim of a Red Notice, living in fear of arrest and continued persecution. Sherif Mansour spoke first, an Egyptian-American democracy and human rights activist working for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Sherif was one of the 43 NGO workers charged in Egypt for operating without a licence and receiving foreign funding, as a part of a crackdown on independent civil society groups in the country. He described his experience of INTERPOL Red Notices "the biggest threat I've faced". They also heard from Patricia Poleo, an award-winning anti-corruption journalist and vocal critic of Hugo Chavez, who was given asylum in the US. She described the frustration of knowing that Venezuela had submitted false information about her to INTERPOL, and the fear of knowing that they might attempt to list her again.

The event also had videos from Benny Wenda and Nadejda Atayeva. Benny is a West Papuan tribal leader who was persecuted by the Indonesian government, subjected to torture and a politically-motivated prosecution, before escaping and receiving asylum in Europe. Despite being a refugee, he found himself listed on INTERPOL's most wanted. Nadejda is the president of the Association of Human Rights in Central Asia. She was forced to flee Uzbekistan following her father's (Alim Atayev) disagreements with President Islam Karimov. With her relatives and colleagues tortured into giving evidence against her and her family, Nedejda soon found herself subjected to a Red Notice. Now based in France, she had been forced to live for over a decade with the knowledge that, even with her refugee status, she was at significant risk of being arrested and returned to a country which had systematically attempted to intimidate and threaten her.

INTERPOL finalThe audience also heard some interesting insights on abuses of INTERPOL from other panel-members. Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, highlighted the 'upside-down world' of INTERPOL, which puts "more faith in the word of dictators than their victims". Michael Hall, the regional director for the Caucasus and Central Asia at Open Society Foundations, spoke about the growing trend in Central Asia whereby international mechanisms designed to protect human rights and promote justice were being increasingly misused, pointing out that the ability of repressive regimes to use INTERPOL to advance their agendas gave dictators a global reach.

The event finished with words from our Legal and Policy Director, Libby McVeigh, speaking about the campaigning work of Fair Trials, which is leading to key fundamental procedural changes in the way INTERPOL enforces criminal justice across borders. As of March 2015, INTERPOL introduced a new pause mechanism which ensured that all Red Notices listed by countries are reviewed before publication. Additionally, INTERPOL have also adopted a policy which prevents refugees from having Red Notices listed against them by the states who persecuted them, which is a great step towards safeguarding human rights defenders, such as those on our panel. New developments are also being seen in light of INTERPOL's 2015 General Assembly, which was early this month. A resolution was passed there for INTERPOL's working group to consider potential reforms to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL's Files (CCF), whose role is to monitor the processing of data and requests for personal information.

Fair Trials will continue to advocate in this area, and will continue to work closely with INTERPOL in the future to discuss new methods of reform. We also hope that events such as this will play a part in bringing the misuse of INTERPOL higher up on the agenda of the United States, and the world, to help to bring about real and lasting change.

You can watch the accounts of Nadejda and Benny on our INTERPOL video page.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on 020 7822 2370 or 07950 849 851.

For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter or sign up to our monthly bulletin at the bottom of the page.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please call the media team on +44 (0) 7749 785 932 or email [email protected]

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